During the 13th century Tuscany grew rich on textile manufacturing and trade. Commercial contact with the Arab world led the Pisan mathematician Fibonacci to introduce Arabic numerals to the West; a new understanding of geometry followed and Tuscan architects began to build ambitious new buildings. At the same time, Tuscan bankers developed the book-keeping principles that still underlie modern accountancy and banking practice. It was also an age of conflict. Cities and factions fought ruthlessly and incessantly to secure wealth and power.
Condottieri (mercenaries) were hired to settle conflicts.
Dante (in blue) was caught in the Guelph- Ghibelline conflict and was exiled from Florence in 1302. He took revenge in his poetry, describing his enemies’ torments in Hell.
Petrarch and Boccaccio
Petrarch and Boccaccio (top and bottom left), like Dante, mote in the Tuscan dialect, not Latin. Petrarch’s sonnets and Boccaccio’s tales were very popular.
Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s early 14th-century allegorical fresco in Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico (seepp214-15) shows thriving shops, fine buildings and dancing citizens, symbolizing the benefits of good government. Another fresco, Bad Government, shows rape, murder, robbery and ruin.
1215 Start of conflict between Guelph supporters of the pope and Ghibelline supporters of the Holy Roman Emperor
1284 Pisan navy defeated by Genoa; the beginning of Pisa’s decline as a port
Florin stamped with the lily of Florence
St Francis (1181-1226)
From monasteries founded in Tuscany by St Francis, the Franciscans brought about a major religious reinval in reaction to the excesses of the church.
Wool Traders’ Emblem
Luca della Robbia’s roundel depicts the Lamb of God, symbol of the Calimala (wool importers), whose trade guild was the most powerful in Florence.
A building boom resulted from increased prosperity.
Bankers in Siena
Tuscan banks proinded loans to popes, monarchs and merchants. Many bankers were ruined when Edward III of England defaulted on his debts in 1342.
1294 Work begins on Florence’s cathedral
I 1300 Giovanni Pisano carves pulpit for Pisa’s cathedral
1350 Pisa’s Leaning Tower completed; Boccaccio begins writing The Decameron
1302 Dante begins writing The Divine I Comedy
1299 Work begins on I Palazzo Vecchio in Florence
1345 Work begins on Florence’s Ponte Vecchio I
1348-93 Black Death carries off half the Tuscan population
Photo Gallery Late Medieval Tuscany
Late Medieval Tuscany Images